One thing ARK offers in abundance (besides dinosaurs) is a variety of maps to play on. Though some share geographical features, dinosaur types, and mechanics, they don’t offer the same experience.
Understanding what each map offers can help you know what to expect before you start a new character.
Official ARK Survival Maps
There are ten official ARK maps. They are:
- The Island
- The Center
- Scorched Earth
- Crystal Isles
- Genesis: Part 1
- Genesis: Part 2
Remember that ARK maps can be connected by a node, enabling you to travel from one to another. Many players take advantage of this to gather resources on one map and transport them to another.
Best Ark Survival Maps
Best ARK Map Overall
The best ARK map overall is a matter of personal opinion. For me, Ragnarok is the best map overall. It has gorgeous scenery, lots of space, a variety of biomes, and wyverns. Ragnarok includes content from multiple releases, is enormous, and offers so many different places to explore.
However, you should read on and see what different maps have to offer. You might find that a different ARK map will fit your needs and the needs of your group.
Best ARK Map for New Players
New players might find the game more approachable and exciting if they start on these maps.
The Center – Something for Everyone
The Center is an excellent map for new players because it has very defined biomes split apart. You can start in the more accessible spawn locations, build a base, start learning to tame, and level up before moving on to the more challenging parts of the map.
Just stay away from the island with lava and t-rexes until you’re a high enough level to take them on.
Crystal Isles – Charming Gameplay
If you want beautiful views while you build a base and tame dinosaurs, consider Crystal Isles. Even though it’s a later release, it’s great for first-time players who are looking for a bit of wonder.
There aren’t as many dinosaur spawns, so it’s also suitable for someone who wants to focus on building without constant interruptions.
Best ARK Map for Solo Players (PvE)
For solo players, smaller maps are generally best. There’s less space to cover, and it’s easier to move resources from one place to another while playing alone.
Scorched Earth – Best for a Small Map Size
Scorched Earth is small, which makes it easy to control the entire map as a solo player. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not the lush experience that many other ARK maps offer.
It has sandstorms, evaporation, and heat stroke, all of which provide exciting challenges to solo players who haven’t tried the mechanics before.
Valguero – Best Map That’s Easy to Navigate Alone
Valguero isn’t huge, and it’s relatively easy to navigate as a solo player. If you have a boat and other tools to make travel safe and effective, you can quickly move between areas to locate different dinosaurs or just travel to your home.
It also has many biomes and creatures together in a reasonably familiar environment, with deep jungles and gorgeous ruins.
Genesis: Part 2 – Best for High-tek Adventures
In Genesis: Part 2, you start with more gear than on any other map. Your tek suit includes flight, superhuman strength, and night vision.
If you fear having to battle multiple creatures without this kind of power when you’re on your own, consider Genesis: Part 2 as your solo map.
Genesis: Part 1 – Best for Missions
Consider trying the first Genesis entry if you worry that you’ll run out of things to do during solo play. The map is divided into five biomes. In each of these, you can complete missions to advance the game.
Best ARK Map for Co-Op
Consider these maps if you want to play with others.
Extinction – Best ARK Map to Explore With a Friend
Being on Extinction always feels like someone is watching you. The abandoned city at the heart of the map is the first place you’ll make a base, but even having a home doesn’t remove the feeling of strangeness.
There are multiple levels to comb through, a dangerous area around the city, and small ARKS with different biomes at the edges of the world. Overall, Extinction is an experience best shared with an adventure-minded friend.
It’s also an excellent map to hide on since it has so much verticality.
The Island – Best ARK Map for PVP
The benefit of doing player-versus-player-style games on The Island is that there aren’t a lot of hiding places. It’s small enough that finding each other will be possible.
Also, it’s not an extremely difficult map to survive on, which will make it easier to go up against other players rather than always taking on the environment.
Ragnarok – Best ARK Map for Clans
Large clans — or multiple clans — should consider playing on Ragnarok. It’s a massive map with resources for absolutely everything. You won’t always end up fighting for what you need.
Besides that, the varied environments let you build different outposts suited for specific purposes, which can be an excellent way for a clan to do PVE content together.
Best ARK Map for Performance
If you’re looking for a map that will run well on your computer, consider trying one of these.
The Island – Best ARK Map for Performance
Many players find they get higher frames-per-second and better overall performance if they’re playing on The Island. It doesn’t have many of the newer and flashier items and biomes, which might make it easier to run. It also has smaller chunks which make your computer have less to load.
Many people also find that Extinction is pretty easy to run since it’s also a small map. The pieces that load in are also small, especially when compared to much larger maps.
Additionally, we also have a full fledged guide to Fix Ark Crashing Issues.
Best ARK Map for Resources
Since you can link between ARK maps, you don’t have to do all your resource gathering on one. Instead, you can choose the best ARK map for the job and bring your resources home.
Extinction – Best ARK Map for Crystal Farming
While there are other maps with a large amount of crystal, Extinction is the best overall for collecting large amounts on every part of the map. While some maps have large quantities of crystal grouped in one place or another, it isn’t as accessible as on Extinction.
Consider the first Genesis map if you’re looking for a less extreme map to farm crystal. The northwest and southwest parts of the map have large crystal deposits.
Crystal Isles, surprisingly, has a small number of crystal spawns.
Aberration – Best ARK Map for Metal Farming
Aberration is covered with metal, especially on the southern half of the map. If you’re traveling between maps on a node and looking to bring home lots of metal, consider a stop at Aberattion.
While you’re there, fill your inventory with polymer, honey, and crystal too. All of these resources are in abundance.
Scorched Earth – Best ARK Map for Oil Farming
It’s easier to find oil on Scorched Earth than on other maps. That’s not to say that there are more oil rocks and nodes, but players tend to use Scorched Earth to farm oil because it’s easier to get. Head to the low desert and badlands to begin your search on that map.
You can also pick up salt by mining bones in the badlands.
However, you can also farm for oil on The Center, especially if you have underwater travel capabilities. It has a vast number of oil nodes. In most cases, though, you need to be pretty advanced to get them.
The Island – Best Map for Farming Silica Pearls
There are plenty of silica pearls in the waters of The Center, as long as you can get them from the ocean. If you’d prefer not venturing into deep uncharted waters, consider trying silica pearl farming on the first Genesis map. There is a large grouping of them in the north-central part of the map.
If you have an angler, try out the cove in Viking Bay on Ragnarok. You can use the tunnel there to obtain many pearls.
If you’re looking for black pearls, on the other hand, consider farming on Aberration.
Best ARK Map for Base Locations
You might choose your map depending on what geographical features are offered.
The Center – Best Map for Ocean Exploration
The Center is an excellent map for ocean exploration. There are great bays, waterways, and deep ocean caves to explore. Giant aquatic creatures roam the seas for you to tame.
It took us many weeks to build an enclosed bay for our aquatic tames and much longer to chart the depths of the ocean.
The Island – Best Map for Ease of Play
The Island is one of the smallest and easiest maps to play on. If you’re looking for a base on a small map without many complex geographic features, consider The Island.
Though it’s an early release, it still has a lot to offer.
Valguero – Best Map for Obtaining Artifacts
It’s relatively easy to get artifacts on Valguero. While you might need some special gear — hazmat suits for one and gas masks for another, for example — none of it is overly difficult to obtain.
Some of them can be retrieved simply by going to the right place without any special endgame gear.
Aberration – Best Map for Caves and Underground Play
Most of the content of Aberration is underground. The biomes in the game are lush but enclosed. The outside world is harsh and irradiated. There are also three caves in the game that you might like to explore — including at least one large enough to get lost in.
Scorched Earth – Best Map for Farming Drops
Try farming drops on Scorched Earth for a different experience. Since there is no massive body of water on the map, the drops typically in the water are in the desert instead. It might give you access to drops you haven’t been able to access yet.
Best ARK Map for Dinosaurs
Each map offers its own mix of dinosaurs, and you won’t find every type on every map. If you’re looking for a specific kind of dinosaur, certain maps will get you closer to finding it than others.
Ragnarok – Best Map for Dinosaur Diversity
Ragnarok has a mix of dinosaurs from Scorched Earth and The Island. It also features the Polar Ice Bear and Icewyvern. Keep in mind that not all dinosaurs will appear everywhere on Ragnarok.
Instead, you’ll have to find different climates where dinosaurs of each type will thrive and track down your intended type there.
Ragnarok and The Island – Best for Tek Quetzals
While Tek Quetzals were added to the game in Extinction, you’re more likely to track a high-quality one in Ragnarok or The Island. Use a flyer to search for quetzals, and be ready to mark and tame one when you find it.
They’re both easy to fly around on and spawn plenty of quetzals. If you’re still having trouble finding one, try flying to the swamp on The Island and killing the quetzals that spawn nearby. Eventually, a tek quetzal should spawn.
Crystal Isles – Best for Aberrant Dinosaurs
Crystal Isles offers aberrant dinosaurs in many varieties. Though they were released with Aberration, they also became available on this DLC. Crystal Isles is less difficult to navigate and survive on, making it perfect for tracking these glowing dinosaurs.
Extinction – Best for Bosses
All ARK bosses are worth trying to defeat, but I found the Extinction bosses to be the most interesting. While they weren’t as mechanically involved as the bosses on Genesis: Part 2, they feel more like part of the world since they spawn on the map and not in arenas.
They also offer varying challenge levels, which means that you can tackle the Desert Titan early while you probably want to avoid the King Titan until later in the game.
Free Maps – Best for High-level Dinosaurs
ARK has both free and paid DLC you can buy to access the new areas. Of these, Valguero, The Center, and Ragnarok tend to spawn higher-level dinosaurs, according to players.
Keep in mind that if you have your own ARK server, you can always change the spawn levels to increase your chance of finding high-level dinosaurs.
Valguero – Best Map for Alphas
Many players have noticed that alphas spawn at what appear to be higher rates on Valguero. There’s almost always an alpha carnosaur or t-rex on the beach at 35 degrees latitude by 35 degrees longitude on my server.
Keep in mind that alphas can’t be tamed. However, you will get a lot of XP and resources if you defeat one.
Genesis: Part 1 – Best Map for Rexes
Snag a few t-rex friends quickly by traveling to the lunar or the volcano biome on Genesis: Part 1. The lunar biome has tek rexes, while brute x-rexes spend their time near the volcanoes.
The brute rexes are a new type of dinosaur for the series and can’t be found on earlier expansions.
Crystal Isles and Valguero – Best Maps for Argentavis
When it comes to Argentavis — an excellent flyer with a high carrying capacity — there are few maps where it’s easier to find them than Crystal Isles and Valguero. Both have large swathes of land where Argentavis are marked as common spawns.
This means that you’re likely to see them in many places. Taming them is much more complex than finding them, of course.
Fan-Made ARK Maps
There are also several fan-made ARK maps that you can download from Steam. While many of these offer exciting landscapes and a change from the regular gameplay, I’m not going to include them in the list of best maps.
However, if you’re looking for a change of pace from standard offerings, they’re worth a try.